Demonstration condemns Israeli siege of Gaza

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
January 8, 2009

DETROIT--Thousands of Palestinian solidarity activists gathered outside
the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit on January 8. The
demonstration, which was organized by the Michigan Emergency Committee
Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) in conjunction with the Palestine
Office of Michigan and the Congress of Arab-American Organizations in
the metropolitan area, was designed to show the growing outrage in the
United States over the Israeli aggression against the people in Gaza
where over 750 people have been killed since December 27.

After the crowd of mainly young people and veteran anti-war and peace
activists gathered and chanted outside the federal building from 4:30 to
5:15 p.m., the crowd took the streets along Michigan avenue and marched
from the corner of Cass to Washington Blvd., and then down to Central
United Methodist Church for a mass rally.

The slogans advanced by the demonstration represented the anger and
frustration that many people have in the United States over the Bush
administration's exclusive support military, economically and
politically for the state of Israel. Israel is the largest recipient of
US foreign assistance in the world. In addition, the military equipment
being used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are either manufactured
in the US or paid for with American tax dollars.

Chanting "1-2-3-4, Stop the Killings, Stop the War" and 5-6-7-8, Israel
is a Terrorist State", the sound grew louder and echoed throughout the
downtown area during rush hour. As the crowd marched down Washington
Blvd., people on the street blew their horns and raised clinched fist in
support of the pro-Palestinian slogans.

In addition to the widespread Arab-American participation in the
demonstration, there were a host of other organizations based in the
metropolitan Detroit area who were present to express solidarity with
the Palestinian people in Gaza. Some of these groups included: the
Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, the Detroit Area Peace With Justice
Network, Jewish Voice for Peace, Detroit Area Jews for a Just Peace, the
Detroit Green Party, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the
Moratorium Now! Coalition Against Foreclosures and Evictions, the
Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, BAMN, the Detroit Martin Luther
King Committe, among others.

As the march moved closer to the corner of Woodward avenue and Adams
where Central United Methodist Church is located, a local police
official directing traffic in the area asked march organizers if "all
these people will be able to fit into the church?". It took nearly
twenty minutes for the crowd to enter the Church and be seated.

A number of prominent speakers gave voice to the growing sentiment in
opposition to United States foreign policy toward the Middle-East. The
list of speakers included: Barbara Harvey of Jewish Voice for Peace,
Hassan Newash of the Palestine Office of Michigan, Osama Siblani,
publisher of the Arab-American News based in Dearborn, Andrea Egypt of
the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Rev. Ed Rowe,
Pastor of Central United Methodist Church, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of
the Detroit Archdiocese and Bill Wylie Kellerman, Pastor of St. Peter's
Episcopal Church of Detroit, among others.

Hassan Newash of the Palestine Office thanked Rev. Ed Rowe for welcoming
the demonstration to the church. Rev. Rowe stated that "Central is the
place for all people who love peace and oppose violence and killing."

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton in reference to statements made earlier by
Barack Obama, stated that "I want all of us to demand that when the next
president takes office that he does not just go Israel, but that he goes
to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, where children are brought to
hospitals, their bodies bent and broken by the bombs."

Andrea Egypt of MECAWI pledged the organization's support for the people
of Gaza and Palestine as a whole. In a statement circulated at the
demonstration written by MECAWI, the organization emphasized that: "The
siege and the bombings are US-Israeli war crimes. Without billions in
yearly U.S. aid, Israel could not bomb the 1.5 million Palestinians in
Gaza, cut off their electricity and kick them out of their homes. Here
in Detroit and throughout the U.S., the same government lets banks
foreclosure on workers' homes while bosses lay-off thousands of workers
and millions live in fear of imminent destitution."

Members of the youth group BAMN announced an effort to get a resolution
passed before the Dearborn City Council calling for an end to the
Israeli siege on Gaza. Members of the Detroit Martin Luther King
Committee, which organizes the annual rally and march in honor of the
martyred civil rights and peace leader, invited the crowd to the January
19 commemoration, which will be held also at Central United Methodist

Distortions in Corporate Media Coverage

Corporate media coverage of the demonstration held in downtown Detroit
on January 8 was reflective of the pro-Israeli bias that is pervassive
in the written and electronic press. During a phase of the January 8
pro-Palestinian demonstration at the McNamara Federal Bldg., a groups of
about two dozen Zionists held a picket in another section of the area in
front of the same structure.

This event was obviously called in an attempt to both antagonize and
deflect attention away from the political impact of the Palestinian
solidarity demonstration that had been planned for a week outside the
McNamara Bldg. In this same effort, the local corporate media outlets
gave disproportionate coverage to the small number of pro-Israeli

Despite the fact that the pro-Palestine demonstrators far outnumbered
the Zionist-US supporters, in the print press, pictures of the Israeli
sympathizers, some of whom were indentified as government and military
operatives, were postioned in a way to lend greater attention than the
photographs of the demonstration and rally opposing the siege of Gaza.

Under the guise of journalistic balance, objectivity and illustrating
"both sides of the conflict", the corporate media has downplayed the
growing sentiment opposing the political and military policy of
Washington toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There have been
numerous demonstrations throughout the United States and Canada opposing
the Israeli siege of Gaza and the continuing United States support for
the State of Israel, yet the corporate press continues to serve as an
apologists for the actions of the Israeli government and the ruling
class in the United States.

However, the lack of public enthusiasm for this latest round of US
imperialist-directed, financed and justified military aggression has
shown the escalating disconnection between mass sentiment and the
political objectives of the financial interests who control the print
and electronic media. This disconnection is causing tremendous problems
for the print media, particularly the daily newspapers.

In the city of Detroit, the two major dailies, The Detroit Free Press
and The Detroit News, have announced that they will cut back
substantially on their print production schedule later on in the year.
Most of the days of the week, people who are interested in their papers,
will have to go online to read them.

With the growing influence of the bloggersphere, many people are able to
read their news from independent journalists and analysts who are not
bound by the political and economic imperatives of the forces of US
capitalism and imperialism.

Consequently, the most factual and penetrating coverage of the Israeli
siege of Gaza is coming from the Middle-Eastern press and independent
sources based in the region who post to blogs and web sites all over the
world. The western corporate journalists keep saying that they have been
prevented from reporting in Gaza, yet many have speculated that this is
deliberate so they can promote the politico-military line of the state
of Israel.

The demonstrations that have taken place in Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor
and other areas around the United States, Canada and Europe are
reflective of what is to come as it relates to a burgeoning movement in
solidarity with the Palestinian people. Whether the United States
government and corporate-controlled media reports the significance of
these movements will not impact the changing political realities that
they represent.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has been
following both the mass demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine as
well as the character of the media coverage on the current Israeli siege
of Gaza.